Tag Archives: dessert

Chocolate Butterfly Cupcakes

(and a gender reveal–NO, not mine)

Chocolate Butterfly Cupcakes 13

I first made these chocolate butterfly cupcakes for my sweet Little J’s 6th birthday. I was feeling very nostalgic about having my last baby in kindergarten and we had a super fun cooking party with a few of her friends. It is (by far) my favorite kids’ birthday party that I’ve hosted. I still get a little bit weepy just thinking about it. If you like a good sentimental cry, you can read about it HERE.

Then last month, a friend asked if I could make some gender reveal cupcakes to announce the sex of their upcoming new baby to their other four children. While I am perfectly content with the 5 children I already have and have no desire to start again with another one (5 years and counting until we are empty nesters!), celebrating with other new moms always makes me reflect on my own babies that are not babies any more.

So I happily agreed, and immediately knew that I wanted to make these butterflies again, for my friend and her family who are welcoming a new life into their family, and for me to reminisce about my own little ones and the joy it has been parenting them. And having my Little J (who isn’t so little anymore) help me make the butterflies and cupcakes was a really great experience.

And because writing this is making me feel nostalgic all over again (and this is my blog so I get to indulge my wistful feelings as much as I want), here is my Little J, then and now:

Little J 2010 2017-09-13 15.54.09

Enough about me and my maudlin ramblings; you really just want to hear about the cupcakes. For my friend, I made my favorite dark chocolate cupcakes. They are tender and moist and absolutely delicious. It also doesn’t hurt that they are easy to make. They start with a cake mix, but the addition of pudding and sour cream takes them well beyond your average chocolate cupcake.

For the “gender reveal”, I cut out a section of the top of each cupcake and filled it with a blue filling (It’s a Boy!!). For the filling, I mixed the white frosting with some of the leftover blue candy melts from the butterflies and piped it into the cut-out centers.

Chocolate Butterfly Cupcakes 9

The frosting I used is a cooked vanilla frosting. It is not as sweet as a traditional buttercream, but is light and fluffy and delicious. I tinted the frosting with pink and blue food coloring to make a striped frosting.

Chocolate Butterfly Cupcakes 10

To create the two-toned look, use a paintbrush and food coloring to paint stripes onto the inside of a pastry bag. (Credit to my hand model Little J!) Carefully spoon white frosting into the bag. Before frosting the cupcakes, squeeze out a small amount of frosting until the color begins to show in the frosting. I used a 1M tip to pipe the frosting onto the cupcakes.

Chocolate Butterfly Cupcakes 11

Now on to the butterflies. Full disclosure: these are time consuming. But they are not particularly difficult. Just be prepared to spend several hours making them if you plan to make a lot.

Items needed:
chocolate and colored candy melts, stencil printed on paper, waxed paper, toothpicks, foil, pastry bags (one for each color), one writing piping tip, small round sprinkles. Optional: heating pad

Draw your desired butterfly wing shape onto a sheet of white paper using a permanent marker. Cut pieces of waxed paper (one for each set of wings you are making) large enough to cover the stencil. You can also draw a set of antennae if desired (see example HERE).

Chocolate Butterfly Cupcakes 1

Place a small amount of colored and chocolate melting disks into separate pastry bags or Ziploc bags. Melt in microwave—Start with 30 seconds, squish bags, then add an additional 10 seconds if not completely melted.

To keep the chocolate melted while making dozens of wings, I placed a piece of plastic wrap over a heating pad and set the bags on the heating pad while they weren’t being used.

Chocolate Butterfly Cupcakes 4

I used a writing tip to pipe the chocolate, but I just cut off a small end of the bag to squeeze out the melted colored candy.

Place a small square of waxed paper over your stencil paper. Use the melted chocolate to trace around the edge of one wing at a time.

Chocolate Butterfly Cupcakes 2

While the chocolate outline is still wet, squeeze a small amount of colored chocolate into the center of each wing section. I used pink in the top section and blue in the bottom section. Use a toothpick to spread colored chocolate to fill the wing. Use a toothpick to gently swirl chocolate edges and colored chocolate. Sprinkle edges of wings with round sprinkles, if desired.

Work with just one wing at a time. The chocolate hardens quickly!

Chocolate Butterfly Cupcakes 3

Let the wings harden completely before assembling butterflies.

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To make the body and assemble the butterflies, fold a piece of heavy-duty aluminum foil in half and then into a v-shape with a flat bottom (about 1/2” wide).

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Using the melted chocolate (remove the writing tip), pipe a body onto a separate piece of waxed paper (or directly onto the bottom section of the folded foil). Make little dollops of chocolate, being sure that they touch.

Chocolate Butterfly Cupcakes 15

Place segmented body (before it hardens) into the folded foil and place the wings at an angle into the still soft chocolate body. Prop them up underneath if the foil doesn’t hold them. (Sorry, I didn’t get a photo of this step)

Don’t use your fingers to support the wings while the body dries: the chocolate will melt in your fingers and ruin the wings.

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Gently press a butterfly onto the top of each frosted cupcake.

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Did you know that a group of butterflies is called a “Kaleidoscope.” What a perfect description of these butterflies! Whatever they are officially called, your family will call them beautiful and delicious!

Chocolate Butterfly Cupcakes 14

 

RECIPES:

Chocolate Butterfly Cupcakes 11  Chocolate Butterfly Cupcakes 12

Dark Chocolate Cupcakes

1 box dark chocolate fudge cake mix
1 small box (3.9 oz) instant chocolate pudding mix
1 cup sour cream
1 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs
½ cup warm water

Preheat oven to 350°F . Place cupcake liners in muffin tins.

In a large bowl, mix together all of the ingredients and beat with a mixer for 2 minutes.

Fill cupcake liners just over halfway. Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely before frosting.

Makes 30-36 cupcakes.

 

Cooked Vanilla Frosting

2 cups whole milk
10 Tbs flour
2 tsp vanilla
2 cups butter
2 cups granulated sugar (do not use powdered sugar)
Optional: gel food coloring

In a small saucepan, mix the flour and milk until no lumps remain. Heat over medium heat, stirring constantly with a whisk, until mixture thickens (and is just about to boil). Remove from heat and let it cool completely to room temperature.  Stir in vanilla.

In a large mixing bowl (a stand mixer works best for this) cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the cooled milk mixture and beat for 5-7 minutes, until frosting is light, fluffy and completely uniform throughout. Beat in food coloring, if desired.

This frosting looks best when piped with a large decorating tip, but can also be spread with a spatula.

Yield: frosting for 24-36 cupcakes

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Mango Sticky Rice

Mango Sticky Rice 1

Mango Sticky Rice may be the primary reason my kids love eating at Thai restaurants. They also love the curries, stir-fries and satays, but this simple dessert definitely tops the list.

Making this at home may not be as much fun as a night out for dinner, but it sure saves the pocketbook! And with this recipe, there is always lots to go around, so there is no fighting for the last bite.

The two main types of mangoes you find here in the US are Haden and Ataulfo. The orange/red/green Haden mangoes are the most common, but the smaller yellow Ataulfo mangoes are my favorite. They are very sweet and have fewer strings than the larger Hadens.

Haden Mango     Ataulfo Mango

For a complete Thai dinner experience, try one of these curries as an entrée before your Mango Sticky Rice:

Thai Green CurryThai Green Curry

Thai Pumpkin Curry
Thai Pumpkin Curry

Thai Red Curry
Thai Red Curry

 

Mango Sticky Rice 2

RECIPE:

Mango Sticky Rice 1

Mango Sticky Rice

1 cup short grain white rice
1 ½ cups unsweetened refrigerated coconut milk (or use water)
1 can coconut milk (do not use lite; do not shake can)
6 Tbs sugar, divided
1 tsp salt, divided
3 ripe mangoes, chilled

Combine rice and 1 ½ cups refrigerated coconut milk or water in a medium saucepan. Bring to a low boil, then reduce heat to low and cover. Cook for 20 minutes, or until rice is cooked.  Alternately, cook rice with coconut milk in a rice cooker.

Carefully open the can of coconut milk and scoop out the thick coconut cream from the top of the can. Set cream aside in a small bowl. Pour the thinner coconut milk from the bottom of the can into a small saucepan. Stir in 4 Tbs sugar and ¾ tsp salt. Heat over medium-low heat until sugar dissolves, but do not boil. Remove from heat and slowly stir the hot sweetened coconut sauce into the rice in the pan. Cover and let sit for an additional 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Place the thick coconut cream in a small saucepan. Stir in 2 Tbs sugar and ¼ tsp salt. Cook over low heat until cream melts and sugar dissolves. Do not boil.

Slice chilled mangoes.

Place ½ cup of the warm cooked, sweetened rice onto each serving plate. Top with about ½ of a chilled, sliced mango. Drizzle with sweetened coconut cream. Serve immediately.

Makes 6 servings

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Homemade Marshmallow Fluff

Strawberries and Toasted Marshmallow Fluff

When you have a  kid that hates chocolate, you have to get creative with your campfire treats.

Dipping fresh strawberries in homemade marshmallow fluff and toasting them over the fire on a roasting stick sure makes up for not liking the s’mores that everyone else is eating.

In fact, you may have to guard your fruit ‘n fluff from the s’mores eaters who think they are the ones getting the short end of the roasting stick!

Marshmallow Fluff

Marshmallow fluff is easy to make yourself, but does require a candy thermometer. It is so much better than the stuff you buy in a jar! And toasting it makes it even more delicious. You can coat most fruits with the fluff for toasting. Try things like strawberries, fresh pineapple, mangos, bananas, mandarin orange segments, kiwi fruit. Or even chunks of pound cake.

Another benefit: you can swap out the vanilla extract with something more exotic, like lemon, coconut, orange, or almond extract to give your fluff a fun new flavor. Mango chunks dipped in coconut flavored fluff = YUM!

We may have even been known to make this in the winter, toasting our fluff-coated-fruit over sterno cans.

RECIPE:

Strawberries and Toasted Marshmallow Fluff

Homemade Marshmallow Fluff

3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup (9 oz) light corn syrup
1/3 cup water
Pinch of salt
3 egg whites
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
2 Tbs sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract (or other flavored extract: lemon, orange, almond, coconut)

Mix 3/4 cup sugar, corn syrup, water, and salt in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Use a spatula to scrape edges of pan as it cooks. Attach a candy thermometer to the side of the pan and continue to cook until mixture registers 240°F on the thermometer. Remove from heat.

While sugar mixture is cooking, place egg whites and cream of tartar in a large mixing bowl (a stand mixer works best). Beat until egg whites are foamy. Slowly add 2 Tbs sugar and continue to beat until soft peaks form.

Turn mixer onto low speed and slowly pour the hot syrup into the mixing bowl. Once all of the syrup has been mixed in, increase mixer speed and beat for 3-5 minutes, or until mixture forms stiff peaks. Add vanilla (or other flavored extract) and beat for an additional minute.

Store marshmallow fluff in the refrigerator.

FOR TOASTED FLUFF-COVERED FRUIT:

Dip fruit (strawberries, fresh pineapple, mangos, bananas, mandarin orange segments, kiwi fruit, etc) in the marshmallow fluff. Place on a roasting stick and cook over an open flame until lightly toasted.

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White Chocolate Raspberry Swirled Cheesecake

White-Chocolate-Raspberry-Cheesecake[10]

A delicious white chocolate cheesecake swirled with a sweetened raspberry puree is made even more decadent with a stabilized whipped cream and some toasted almonds. The crust is an Almond Coconut Crust that is easy to make gluten free.

Perfect for a summer dessert, or for raising money at a Boy Scout fundraising auction.

Cheesecakes should always be baked in a water bath. This helps them cook evenly, without becoming grainy. For a more in-depth look at cooking a cheesecake in a water bath, click HERE.

When the cheesecake has chilled for several hours (or overnight), remove it from the springform pan and prepare to transform the slightly boring cheesecake into something beautiful and mouth-watering.

White-Chocolate-Raspberry-Cheesecake[12]

Spread the outside edge of the cheesecake with chilled raspberry puree and place toasted almonds around the outside edge. The puree will “glue” the almonds to the cheesecake. Try to use unbroken almonds that are similar in size.

White-Chocolate-Raspberry-Cheesecake[14]

The whipped cream topping used to garnish the cake is a stabilized whipped cream. The addition of cream cheese to the whipped cream keeps the whipped cream from breaking down. It will keep for at least 4-5 days in the refrigerator without separating and breaking down.

Use a pastry bag and piping tips to decorate the top edge of the cheesecake. I piped large and small stars around the outside top edge and garnished the top with fresh raspberries. I piped small stars around the bottom edge of the cheesecake.

White-Chocolate-Raspberry-Cheesecake

RECIPE:

White-Chocolate-Raspberry-Cheesecake[5]

White Chocolate Raspberry Swirled Cheesecake

Almond Coconut Crust (recipe below)

½ cup heavy cream
6 oz (about 1 cup) white chocolate chips
3 (8 oz) packages cream cheese, softened
½ cup sour cream
½ cup sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp almond extract
¼ tsp salt
3 eggs

1 cup Raspberry Puree (recipe below)
about 1 cup sliced almonds, lightly toasted
Whipped Cream Topping (recipe below)
Fresh raspberries for garnish

Preheat oven to 350°F. Prepare and bake Almond Coconut Crust in a 9” springform pan. Cool completely. Wrap springform pan in a double layer of foil, or one layer of foil and then place in an oven bag (like the kind used for turkeys) or a crock-pot liner. Place wrapped springform pan in a larger roasting pan.

Place ½ cup heavy cream in a Pyrex measuring cup and heat for 1 minute in the microwave. Stir in white chocolate chips until smooth. Cool slightly while preparing rest of cheesecake batter.

In a large mixing bowl, use a mixer to combine cream cheese, sour cream, sugar, vanilla and almond extracts, and salt. Beat until smooth, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Beat in cooled chocolate mixture. Add eggs to mixing bowl and beat until just combined.

Pour half of the cheesecake batter over the crust  in the prepared pan. Measure out ½ cup of the Raspberry Puree and use this to place dollops around the top of the cheesecake batter. Use a knife to gently swirl. Top with remaining cheesecake batter and swirl with an additional ½ cup of the raspberry puree.

Fill roasting pan (not springform pan!) with very hot water to about 2-inches deep. Bake the cheesecake in the water bath for about 60-75 minutes at 350°F, or until just the very center of the cheesecake is still jiggly. Remove springform pan from the water bath and run a sharp knife around the sides, but do not remove the ring of the pan.

Let cheesecake cool at room temperature for 1 hour. Cover cheesecake pan (do not remove sides) with plastic wrap, taking care not to touch the surface of the cheesecake. Chill for at least four hours or overnight.

To serve:

Remove plastic wrap and remove the outer edge of the spring form pan. Slide a knife or spatula between the parchment paper lining and the crust, and slide the cheesecake off of the spring form base and onto a cake stand or serving platter. Discard parchment paper round.

Spread about ½ cup of the Raspberry Puree around the outside edge of the chilled cheesecake. Press toasted almond slices around the edge, covering the edge completely.

Prepare Whipped Cream Topping and use a pastry bag to pipe large and small stars or flowers around the top edge of the cheesecake, garnishing with fresh raspberries. Pipe small stars/flowers around bottom edge of cheesecake.

Almond Coconut Crust
¾ cup whole roasted almonds
2 Tbs sugar
2 Tbs flour (omit flour for gluten-free)
¼ cup unsweetened coconut flakes
4 Tbs unsalted butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350°F. Place almonds, sugar, flour, and coconut in a food processor and pulse until it forms coarse crumbs. Add melted butter and pulse until just moistened.

Line a 9″ springform pan with a parchment round. Spray lightly with baking spray. Spread the crust crumbs evenly onto just the bottom of the springform pan. Bake for 10 minutes. Cool completely before adding filling.

Raspberry Puree
12 oz raspberries, fresh or frozen (about 2 1/2 cups of not crushed fresh berries)
½ cup water
3 Tbs sugar
½ Tbs lemon juice
2 Tbs ClearJel or cornstarch
¼ cup cold water

In a heavy saucepan, combine raspberries, ½ cup water, sugar, and lemon juice. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes, crushing berries slightly with the back of a spoon. Strain the berries through a fine sieve, pushing the pulp through the sieve with the back of a spoon. Return seedless puree to the saucepan (rinse saucepan first if there are seeds clinging to the sides). Mix the cornstarch and ¼ cup cold water in a small bowl; stir into puree in the saucepan. Return mixture to a boil; lower heat and simmer for 1-2 minutes, or until slightly thickened and no longer cloudy. Cool before using. Store leftover puree in the refrigerator.

Whipped Cream Topping
1 cup heavy cream
2 Tbs cream cheese, very soft
2 Tbs powdered sugar
½ tsp vanilla extract
½ tsp almond extract
Pinch of salt

Combine  heavy cream and softened cream cheese (must be very soft, or your topping will be chunky!) in a large bowl. Beat until soft peaks form. Add powdered sugar, vanilla and almond extracts, and salt; beat until stiff peaks form.  (The cream cheese in this topping will stabilize your whipped cream and help it keep its shape even over several days.)

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Sugar Free Baked Custards and a Magic Fridge

Baked Custards 6

In our laundry room is an old refrigerator. It isn’t fancy, doesn’t dispense water or ice, or sync to your phone to create grocery lists. But it is magic.

2017-04-24 10.15.17

As my husband and children like to observe, whenever someone takes the last custard from this fridge, more magically appear again the very next day. They love this Magic Fridge.

It must be that same Magic that turns full laundry baskets into piles of folded clothes, raw ingredients into hot meals, and grimy bathrooms into sparkling retreats (okay, that might be wishful thinking; I’m still waiting for that kind of magic to appear).

But if you’re looking for a simple egg custard that is easy to make sugar-free, this is definitely the kind of magic I can help you with.

Baked Custards 1

Stevia is my favorite non-sugar sweetener, but it can sometimes be bitter if it is used alone to sweeten desserts. For this recipe, I combine stevia with erythritol. You could also use Splenda (or go for an all-sugar version).

Baked Custards 5

RECIPE:

Baked Custards 6

Sugar Free Baked Custards

3 eggs
3 egg yolks
¼ tsp liquid stevia
1 ½ tsp vanilla
pinch of salt
4 cups (1 quart) half & half
½ cup erythritol (or Splenda)
Optional: fresh berries for garnish

Preheat oven to 325°F.

Prepare a pan for a water bath: place eight 8-oz ramekins in a larger baking pan. Heat enough water to come halfway up sides of ramekins. (Don’t add hot water to baking pan until after pouring custard into ramekins)

In a mixing bowl, whisk together eggs, egg yolks, stevia, vanilla, and salt.

Heat half & half until very hot, but not quite boiling. (You can do this either in the microwave or on the stovetop). Remove from heat and stir in erythritol.

While whisking constantly, slowly pour the hot milk in a steady stream into the mixing bowl with the eggs. Do this very, very slowly at first, or you will curdle the eggs.

Strain the custard through a mesh sieve to remove any lumps.

Pour custard into small ramekins. Fill bottom of the larger baking pans with hot water to halfway up sides of ramekins.

Bake for 30 minutes, or until set at the edges, and only slightly jiggly in the center. Cool for 15 minutes in the water bath. Remove ramekins from water bath and refrigerate for 2-3 hours before serving. Serve with fresh fruit, if desired

Yield: 8 8-oz custards

**To prepare using sugar: use 2/3 cup sugar in place of stevia and erythritol

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Gingerbread with Lemon Sauce and Cinnamon Whipped Cream

Gingerbread with Lemon Sauce and Cinnamon Whipped Cream 2

Traditional gingerbread –the cake, not the cookie, although those are good too — is one of my favorite desserts, but one I hardly ever get to eat. Gingerbread just feels like it should only be a Christmas dessert, and there are always so many treats around Christmas time, that this fabulously simple dessert sometimes gets bumped from the menu.

I think gingerbread should get a whole season of love, not just a single holiday at the busiest time of year. Pumpkin gets a full four months of love; gingerbread should get the same respect.

Gingerbread is a simple to make cake that is great alone, but also pairs wonderfully with a tart lemon sauce and cinnamon flavored whipped cream.

 

Gingerbread with Lemon Sauce and Cinnamon Whipped Cream 4

RECIPE:

Gingerbread with Lemon Sauce and Cinnamon Whipped Cream 2

Gingerbread with Lemon Sauce and Cinnamon Whipped Cream
(adapted from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe)

Gingerbread:
½ cup sugar
½ cup butter, softened
1 egg
1 cup molasses (NOT blackstrap: or use ½ cup blackstrap + ½ cup corn syrup)
1 tsp vanilla
2 ½ cups flour
1 ½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
½ tsp ground cloves
1 cup very hot water

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a 9X13-inch baking pan and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar until well blended. Add the egg, molasses and vanilla and mix again.

Combine flour, baking soda, salt and spices in a separate bowl and use a whisk to mix well. Add to mixing bowl and mix well. Add the hot water and beat until smooth. Batter will be thin.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 30-35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Don’t overbake or the gingerbread will be dry.

Serve the gingerbread warm or at room temperature with lemon sauce and/or cinnamon whipped cream.

Cinnamon Whipped Cream:
2 cups heavy whipping cream
½ tsp vanilla extract
¼ tsp cinnamon
¼ cup powdered sugar


In a medium bowl, begin beating the whipped cream and vanilla until soft peaks form. Add the cinnamon and powdered sugar and beat until medium-stiff peaks form. Store in refrigerator until ready to serve.

Lemon Sauce:
1 ½ cups sugar
3 Tbs cornstarch
¼ tsp salt
1 ½ cups cold water
½ cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
5 egg yolks
2-3 tsp grated lemon zest
2 Tbs butter
1 tsp vanilla

In a medium saucepan, use a whisk to mix sugar, cornstarch and salt. Stir in water and lemon juice. In a small bowl, whisk egg yolks until well mixed and then mix into saucepan. Cook over medium heat until thickened and bubbly. Stir in lemon zest, butter and vanilla. Cook until butter melts and then remove from heat. Serve warm.

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Twelve Days of Christmas Cookies (and Treats): Easy Homemade Caramels

Homemade Caramels

DAY 12: Homemade Caramels

Soft and chewy homemade caramels. This recipe uses sweetened condensed milk, so they come together faster than starting with a true caramelized sugar base. This method also produces very consistent results, with little chance of gritty caramels or seizing.

If you don’t have (or don’t want to use) sweetened condensed milk, try this recipe for Salted Caramel Sauce, and cook it to about 245°F.

The hardest part of making these is not popping one in your mouth every time you walk past their container.

This recipe (cooked to a lower temperature, about 235°F) can also be used to make a homemade filling for these Chocolate Caramel Thumbprints:

DSC05126-2

RECIPE:

Homemade Caramels

Homemade Caramels

1 cup unsalted butter
1 can sweetened condensed milk
2 cups brown sugar (light or dark)
1 cup light corn syrup
2 Tbs heavy cream
2 tsp vanilla extract, or seeds from 1 vanilla bean
½ tsp sea salt

Line an 8×8” pan with parchment paper, allowing the paper to hang over the edge on 2 sides.

Combine butter, sweetened condensed milk, brown sugar, corn syrup and heavy cream in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Place a candy thermometer on the side of the pan. Reduce heat to medium low, maintaining a low but continuous simmer, until caramel reaches 245°F, stirring occasionally. This will take about 25-30 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla and salt.

Pour hot caramel into lined pan (do not scrape the sides of the cooking pan when you pour it into the square pan). Cool, uncovered, at room temperature until completely cooled and firm. Remove from pan and cut into pieces. Wrap individual pieces in waxed paper.

 

CARAMEL FILING OR SAUCE: To use as a filling for thumbprint cookies, or as a caramel sauce, cook caramel to 235°F (soft ball stage) for caramel filling, or slightly lower for a caramel sauce.

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Twelve Days of Christmas Cookies (and other treats): Cinnamon Roasted Pecans

Cinnamon Pecans 2

DAY 3: Cinnamon Roasted Pecans

A simple recipe that makes great neighbor gifts. Fill a mason jar or clear treat bag and add a Christmas message for an easy gift that everyone loves!

RECIPE:

Cinnamon Pecans 2

Cinnamon Roasted Pecans

1 egg white
2 tsp vanilla extract
3 cups raw pecan halves
1/3 cup sugar
1 Tbs cinnamon
¼ tsp salt

Preheat oven to 300°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Whisk egg white and vanilla in a large bowl until slightly frothy. Add pecans and stir until nuts are well coated.

Combine sugar, cinnamon and salt in a small bowl until well mixed. Gradually stir into mixing bowl with the nuts, stirring constantly until pecans are coated evenly.

Spread onto lined baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes. Stir with a rubber spatula and return to the oven and bake for an additional 5 minutes. Remove from oven. Remove parchment paper (with the nuts still on it) and place onto a wire cooling rack. Cool completely before storing in an airtight container.

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8th Annual Twelve Days of Christmas Cookies: Snow Capped Christmas Trees

Snow Capped Christmas Trees

Welcome to December and No Empty Chairs’ 8th Annual Twelve Days of Christmas Cookies Celebration!

DAY 1: Snow Capped Christmas Trees

These Christmas trees are an easy way to make a cute sugar cookie without the hassle of frosting and decorating. And they are easy to stack and store. You could dress them up with additional sprinkles, but I prefer the clean look of the green and white.

Cookie baking at Christmas is a long-held tradition in our home. Another great Christmas tradition is service. Check out this link for ways to Light the World this Christmas season through Christlike service over the next 25 days:

#LIGHTtheWORLD

 

Another great place to find ways to serve in your local community:

JUSTSERVE.ORG

 

RECIPE:

Snow Capped Christmas Trees

Snow Capped Christmas Trees

3 cups sugar
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup sour cream
2 tsp vanilla
½ tsp almond extract (optional)
3 eggs
7 ½ cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
Green food coloring
About 12 oz white chocolate, or white melting candy discs

In a large mixing bowl, beat together sugar, butter, sour cream, vanilla and almond extract (if using). Beat in eggs. Add baking soda, salt and 5 cups flour, and beat until well mixed. Mix in a few drops of green food coloring. Beat in additional 2 ½ cups of  flour to make a moderately stiff dough.

Chill for 20 minutes to 1 hour for easier handling. Roll out dough and cut out with Christmas tree cookie cutter.

Bake at 375°F for 10 -11 minutes; if they brown, it’s been too long. Cool on a wire rack.

Place white chocolate in a bowl at least as wide as the cookie sides you will be dipping. Microwave in 30 second increments, stirring after each heating, until melted and smooth. Dip each edge of the cooled cookies in the melted chocolate and place on waxed paper to harden.

Makes about 6 dozen cookies (using a 3″ cookie cutter)

 

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Chocolate Raspberry Vanilla Mousse Cake

Chocolate Raspberry Vanilla Mousse Cake 5

This is a fabulous, decadent cake made from layers of chocolate, raspberry and vanilla mousses on a brownie crust. It is not as sweet as a normal frosted cake, but the mousses are definitely rich and creamy. Serve this in small slices. A whole cake will go a long way, feeding at least 12-18 people.

I first made this cake with Little J about a month ago for my birthday, after seeing it on Sugar Hero. I made a few changes to it then, and then some more changes when I made it a second time for a church youth event. I still found the brownie layer to be much too rich in the first two versions of this recipe, so I tried yet again and am now happy with the results!

Chocolate Raspberry Vanilla Mousse Cake 4

The length of the recipe looks intimidating, but basically you are just making a one-bowl brownie layer, then repeating the mousse layer in three different flavors and topping with a simple chocolate ganache. I won’t lie: it does take ALL DAY to make. But that is mostly because there are a number of cooling/chilling steps, since the mousse layers each need to firm up before spreading on the next layer. And if you make your own raspberry puree, that adds more time to the process. Straining raspberry seeds is not one of my favorite things, but the result is definitely worth it.

The only special equipment you need to make this cake are a springform pan (or cake pan with removable bottom) and an acetate cake collar at least 4” high.

The final cake is taller than a regular springform pan, and you want the sides to be smooth, so a cake collar is a real help putting this together.

Chocolate Raspberry Vanilla Mousse Cake Cake Collar 1

You can make your own using parchment paper or foil, but it is hard to get it completely smooth. I used non-stick foil the first time I made this cake, and then bought some cake collars on Amazon for my next try at it. Here are the differences in final texture between the foil collar and real cake collar:

Chocolate Raspberry Mousse CakeChocolate Raspberry Vanilla Mousse Cake 5

If you have an egg allergy, this is a perfect cake. The mousse layers contain no eggs at all. The brownie layer does contain an egg, but you could leave that layer off or use an egg substitute for that one egg. This dessert is also really pretty layered in parfait glasses. I made one parfait version for our chocolate-hating son, just layering the raspberry and vanilla mousses and fresh berries.

Chocolate Raspberry Vanilla Mousse Cake 6

 

RECIPE:

Chocolate Raspberry Vanilla Mousse Cake 5

Chocolate Raspberry Vanilla Mousse Cake
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(Inspired by Sugar Hero)

Brownie Layer:
¼ cup semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips
4 Tbs unsalted butter
½ cup sugar
1/8 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
1 egg
1/3 cup flour

Chocolate Mousse Layer:
1 ¾ cups heavy cream, divided
6 oz (1 cup) semisweet chocolate chips
1 pkt (2 tsp) unflavored gelatin
2 Tbs water
Pinch salt
t tsp vanilla

Raspberry  Mousse Layer:
1 ½ cups heavy cream, divided
6 oz (1 cup) white chocolate chips
1 pkt (2 tsp) unflavored gelatin
2 Tbs water
Pinch salt
t tsp vanilla
1 cup Sweetened Raspberry Puree or seedless raspberry jam

Vanilla  Mousse Layer:
1 ¾ cups heavy cream, divided
6 oz (1 cup) white chocolate chips
1 pkt (2 tsp) unflavored gelatin
2 Tbs water
3 Tbs powdered sugar
Pinch salt
1 vanilla bean
t tsp vanilla

Chocolate Ganache & Topping:
1/3 cup heavy cream
1 Tbs corn syrup
3 oz (1/3 cup) bittersweet chocolate chips
1 pint fresh raspberries

Brownie Layer:
Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray a 9” springform pan lightly with baking spray. Line bottom of pan with a round of parchment paper and then spray again with baking spray.

Place chocolate chips and butter in a microwave safe bowl. Heat in 30 second increments, stirring after each heating until melted. Stir in sugar, salt and vanilla; mix well. Stir in egg and mix well. Stir in flour until just combined.

Spread into prepared pan and bake for 15-17 minutes. Cool completely.

Chocolate Mousse Layer:
Place ¾ cup of the cream in a Pyrex measuring cup and heat in microwave for 1 minute, or until hot. Add chocolate chips to hot cream. Let sit for 1 minute and then stir until smooth. Cool to room temperature. Place water in a small bowl and sprinkle gelatin over the surface of the water. Let sit while chocolate cools. Place remaining 1 cup cream, salt and vanilla in a large bowl and whip until stiff peaks form. Microwave gelatin mixture for 15 seconds to melt gelatin; stir into chocolate. Pour chocolate mixture into whipped cream and beat briefly with a mixer to partially mix. Use a spatula to fold mousse until well mixed.

Place a 4” cake collar or a strip of non-stick foil around the inside of the springform pan. Spread chocolate mousse over the brownie layer, spreading to the edge of the pan. Refrigerate for 1 hour, or until mousse is firm.

Raspberry Mousse Layer:
Place ½ cup of the cream in a Pyrex measuring cup and heat in microwave for 1 minute, or until hot. Add white chocolate chips to hot cream. Let sit for 1 minute and then stir until smooth. Cool to room temperature. Place water in a small bowl and sprinkle gelatin over the surface of the water. Let sit while chocolate cools. Place remaining 1 cup cream, salt and vanilla in a large bowl and whip until stiff peaks form. Microwave gelatin mixture for 15 seconds to melt gelatin; stir into chocolate. Pour white chocolate mixture and raspberry puree into whipped cream and beat briefly with a mixer to partially mix. Use a spatula to fold mousse until well mixed.

Spread raspberry mousse over the chocolate mousse layer, spreading to the edge of the pan. Refrigerate for 1 hour, or until mousse is firm.

Vanilla Mousse Layer:
Place ¾ cup of the cream in a Pyrex measuring cup and heat in microwave for 1 minute, or until hot. Add white chocolate chips to hot cream. Let sit for 1 minute and then stir until smooth. Cool to room temperature. Place water in a small bowl and sprinkle gelatin over the surface of the water. Let sit while chocolate cools. Place remaining 1 cup cream, salt, seeds from vanilla bean and vanilla in a large bowl and whip until stiff peaks form. Microwave gelatin mixture for 15 seconds to melt gelatin; stir into chocolate. Pour white chocolate mixture  into whipped cream and beat briefly with a mixer to partially mix. Use a spatula to fold mousse until well mixed.

Spread vanilla mousse over the raspberry mousse layer, spreading to the edge of the pan. Refrigerate for 1 hour, or until mousse is firm.

Chocolate Ganache & Topping:
Place cream and corn syrup in a Pyrex measuring cup and heat in microwave for 1 minute, or until hot. Add chocolate chips to hot cream. Let sit for 1 minute and then stir until smooth. Cool until a thick pouring consistency.

Remove sides of the springform pan. Run a sharp knife along the top edge of the vanilla mousse layer to keep it from sticking to the cake collar. Carefully remove cake collar. Remove cake from bottom of the springform pan and place on serving dish.

Spread the ganache over the top of the cake and allow to drip down the sides of the cake. Place fresh raspberries in the center of the cake. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

 

Sweetened Raspberry Puree
12 oz raspberries, fresh or frozen (about 2 ½ cups of not-crushed fresh berries)
½ cup water
½ cup sugar
½ Tbs lemon juice
2 Tbs cornstarch
¼ cup cold water

In a heavy saucepan, combine raspberries, ½ cup water, sugar and lemon juice. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes, crushing berries slightly with the back of a spoon. Strain the berries through a fine sieve, pushing the pulp through the sieve with the back of a spoon or a pestle. Return seedless puree to the saucepan (rinse saucepan first if there are seeds clinging to the sides). Mix the cornstarch and water in a small bowl; stir into puree in the saucepan. Return mixture to a boil; lower heat and simmer for 1-2 minutes, or until slightly thickened and no longer cloudy. Cool before using.

Yield: about 1 ¾ cups seedless puree

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